21 Jul The Pros and Cons of Virtual Working
We consider here the benefits and challenges of the ‘next normal’ of remote working and how a true cloud solution such as Acumatica Cloud ERP can address many of the concerns that a modern business may otherwise foster.
With startling speed, companies have learned that they can shutter offices, abandon the daily commute and quickly embrace remote working amidst global change. This shift to remote-working provides companies with the opportunity to refine remote work practices, now and for the longer term. But beyond the obvious advantages, companies must weigh the implications of issues such as long-term productivity, ease of collaboration, the ability to sustain employee competencies, and employee development. They must also take into account operational capabilities as well as employee access to infrastructure, such as a suitable physical space for working and adequate internet connectivity.
Discussions about the benefits of remote work focus on the cost efficiencies companies can achieve and the flexibility it affords employees. But many less visible advantages offer long-lasting, strategic advantages.
It is important to consider the pros and cons of remote working, and examine the challenges, as many companies using advances in modern technologies such as Cloud ERP and online collaboration tools have been able to turn remote working into a competitive advantage.
Main Pros Of Remote Working
More firepower per professional. Traditionally, the size of the location and proximity to internal stakeholders are determined by the location of general and administrative professionals. Remote models make these factors less relevant, allowing them to expand their influence throughout the enterprise. Business partners can more easily serve multiple business areas, being in several places at the same time. For example, an industrial company has begun relocating most of its business partners from its headquarters and regional offices to less expensive locations, while holding periodic personal joint work sessions.
Ability to deploy people more effectively. By easing geographic constraints, remote work dramatically increases the number of potential candidates a company can draw from. Over time, this will allow companies to gain access to skills that are not available in local talent pools. In addition, the ability to deploy staff anywhere gives companies the ability to opt out of time zones, extending support hours for critical initiatives.
Greater productivity of employees. Reduced commute times, as well as fewer breaks, can increase productivity by offering more personal scheduling flexibility. Both results can increase employee satisfaction. As virtual interactions become more common, remote work may offer younger employees a better chance of overshadowing managers in customer discussions and high-level decision-making, an activity that accelerates learning.
Reduced costs for infrastructure and services in the workplace. Companies can manage fixed costs such as property assets, utilities and workplace services. Some of these savings are inevitably offset as companies help employees adapt to work from home, these costs are offset by potential savings.
Greater business continuity, increased resiliency. Though remote-working offers many opportunities, sustaining a distance model comes with certain risks. Most of these can be mitigated but such measures can be an integral part of the transition to remote working.
Main Cons Of Remote Working
Erosion of culture and relationships. Without ‘face to face’ conversations and after-hours socialising, cultural cohesion and trust can suffer, especially in new employees. It’s easy to forget that these informal channels are often vital sources for change and innovation in most organisations. Furthermore, although remote working involves increased diversity through access to a wider talent pool, this may lead to less inclusive outcomes. This is partly due to the varied requirements for remote workplaces for certain groups of workers caring for children, caring for the elderly or other similar responsibilities; also due to the different levels of access of some employees to the infrastructure and support required for effective remote work.
Burnout and mental health issues. Even before the pandemic, some companies recognised that remote work modes could instill a mindset that could increase employee burnout and mental health challenges. Less structured work schedules, common among local employees, business partners and high-quality employees, tend to make them especially prone to these risks.
Poor onboarding, development and performance management. For new employees, the lack of personal mentoring can lead to greater exhaustion. Moreover, among less experienced or less motivated employees, the gap between high and mid level performers can widen significantly without regular personal connections.
Difficulties in adapting to new ways of collaborating. For employees who have previously been together, the transition to online management practices – many of which are adapted to lean and agile ones, such as daily registrations, get-togethers, visual controls and standard work checks – can be difficult. Although digital collaboration tools have improved, the inability to read body language can complicate virtual communication and coordination. Real-time feedback may be limited and collaboration may become less uniform and therefore less effective.
Home-office limitations. Many employees, including part-time, hired or entry-level employees, may lack the ability or means to work effectively at home. Sufficient communication may not be available or distributed among several household members. In addition, an employee’s home workspace may not increase productivity or provide the privacy required for sensitive work.
What’s Optimal For Now?
With the easing of the pandemic, many organisations are planning a new combination of remote and on-site working, a hybrid virtual model in which some employees are on premises, others work from home. This new hybrid model will provide a greater access to talent, increased smaller teams, lower costs, more individual flexibility and better employee experiences. The benefits of live collaboration and real-time problem-solving significantly outweigh the virtual alternative. The success of companies will depend on how flexible their work arrangements are.
Three Actions To Help a Hybrid Remote-Working Model Succeed
Embrace the hybrid model. The post-pandemic results are becoming clearer: a hybrid work model in which part of the workforce works part of the time outside the traditional office. The more important question is: what part of the workforce should be present in the office, and when, and for what reason? Employees seek clarity about what will be next in terms of work organisation. It falls on the leaders to chart the path for managers and employees. Transparent and frequent communication, with managers playing a key role, can help ensure that the organisation moves in unison.
Reimagine the physical space. The future office will require companies to consider the alerted footprint and layout that will emerge from a hybrid work model. Since in-person work will look substantially different, companies will need to make sure that their physical space is in tune with the objectives of the people within it.
Accelerate digital utilisation. Take advantage of new emerging technologies to reduce the reliance on legacy processes and migrate all activities and interactions to a digital context.
How Does Acumatica Help – Microsoft Teams and Latest Technology
Working with a solution such as Acumatica means that any work scenario can be supported. Most management roles can be operated remotely through an advanced Cloud platform. New software advances such as allowing sales, support and purchasing stakeholders to interact with their counterparts using Microsoft Teams, as one example, is not only optimising latest technology but shows the understanding that personal interaction is a vital part of ‘being human’. It upholds the values that we discuss here. Of course, we can look at efficiency and derive the advantages of key information being seen and enacted from a smartphone but this also inherently provides a natural connection to colleagues and business communities, sustaining relationships and simplifying ongoing communication. Innovation doesn’t stop there as the openness of Acumatica supports interaction through devices such as the Apple Watch where ERP alarms and workflow approvals can be set up for immediate response, straight ‘off the cuff’. Operating in this way falls to personal choice but the benefits are clear in balancing time savings with near-effortless, personal and direct contact with colleagues.
Developing the right model, considering the shifts among competitors, customers and suppliers, equipping people with the right resources and tools will help companies to stay connected, perform well, and maintain a healthy work-life balance. The key attribute here is in discovering the freedom to choose how you want to work.
Conclusion. Even when the pandemic begins to ease, remote working looks likely to be staying with us. In order to ensure companies and employees work most effectively, new hybrid work models that harmonise rhythms and interaction will offer great competitive advantages.